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Khalil Mack senses career slipping away, says Bears ‘gotta win now’

Mack’s otherwise-sparkling career is missing something huge: A ring.

Khalil Mack is looking for a second straight all-pro selection.
Brian O’Mahoney/For the Sun-Times

BOURBONNAIS — Outside linebacker Khalil Mack got a rest Tuesday morning, but the Bears’ offense needed a break from him more than he needed the day off. He has been wrecking everything he touches during training camp.

Mack isn’t naturally inclined to sit out. If anything, his mind works the opposite way.

At 28 and starting his sixth season, he has been thinking back to what former Raiders teammates Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck used to tell him about how quickly their careers slipped away and how precious the chances are to do something meaningful.

‘‘You’re running out of time, man,’’ Mack said. ‘‘All these older dudes let us know at an early point in my career, man, we ain’t got no time to waste.’’

As good as he still is, earning All-Pro honors last season, he senses it’s getting late.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ he said. ‘‘You’ve gotta win. Gotta win now.’’

Mack is one of the few Bears talking that way as the team embarks on a quest for the Super Bowl. There’s a lot of discussion about this being the beginning of something incredible and a prolonged window to contend. Mack knows the Bears are good enough to make a run this season and assumes nothing beyond that.

He enjoyed one winning season with the Raiders, a 12-4 effort in 2016 that fizzled with a first-round playoff exit. The team spiraled from there. Mack said that team learned, ‘‘You can’t think you’re too good.’’

The Bears matched that record last season, and everyone knows how that ended. Mack is intent on making sure they keep growing.

Neither of those letdowns was Mack’s fault, by the way. He’s a three-time All-Pro with four consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks and was a turnover machine last season. It has been a marvelous career already, but going 40-40 with no playoff victories has left him unsatisfied.

That’s part of what ate at him during his holdout from the Raiders last summer. He wanted to be part of pushing a team — any team — toward the Super Bowl, and he’s enjoying a more normal start to the season this year. It’s likely no one else on the roster is enjoying Bourbonnais as much as Mack.

‘‘It seems so long ago now,’’ he said of sitting out. ‘‘I was antsy because I love the game . . . and it was real hard to stay away from it for so long. This year, back in the grind, it feels great.’’

It doesn’t feel so great for the offensive players, though they begrudgingly admit it benefits them to have Mack out there.

‘‘It helps you get better,’’ running back Mike Davis said. ‘‘You’re not going to see another guy like Khalil Mack out on the field. He’s making us better.’’

Imagine what it’s like for right tackle Bobby Massie, who wakes up every morning knowing Mack awaits him.

The stability of the six-year, $141 million contract Mack signed with the Bears gave him an opportunity to take hold of a leadership role. While he was just trying to catch up when he arrived last season, he is taking ownership and helping to steer the defense this season.

Mack has gravitated toward the younger players, including fellow University at Buffalo alum Chuck Harris. Harris, also a linebacker, is trying to make the roster as an undrafted rookie.

Mack is trying to help him, second-year standout Roquan Smith and anyone else willing to listen.

‘‘That’s what it’s all about,’’ Mack said. ‘‘This game is all about making everybody around you great, not so much about making myself great.’’

That’s the sound of someone tired of losing, and it’s exactly the attitude and urgency the Bears need from the man spearheading their defense.